Our firm continues to investigate claims on behalf of Alabama farmers and other property owners affected by contaminated sewage sludge in fertilizer in Franklin, Lawrence, and Morgan counties. The EPA found elevated levels of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) – specifically perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS) – in treated sewage sludge from the Decatur Utilities (DU) Dry Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and in soil and water on farms in the surrounding area. The sewage sludge (also known as “biosolids”) had been applied as fertilizer to approximately 5000 acres of farmland for roughly the past twelve years.
As a result of these findings, a multi-agency investigation is underway to determine the source and extent of PFC contamination, including potential routes of exposure and any potential health effects to area residents. The EPA held a public meeting in Moulton on June 2, 2009, and plans to hold another such meeting in the fall of 2009 to explain the coordinated federal, state, and local activities and to respond to questions from residents in the community. The multi-agency investigation includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Alabama Departments of Environmental Management, Agriculture and Industries, and Public Health, and Decatur Utilities.
Although Decatur drinking water samples are below the EPA Provisional Health Advisory limits, high PFC levels have been discovered in two private wells and numerous grazing ponds thus far. Additionally, the USDA and the FDA are conducting investigations on what the contamination means for livestock and food products in the Decatur area. The EPA continues to take samples and anticipates final results of the 2009 soil sampling to be available at the end of June 2009. The USDA took samples of meat, organ, and blood from nine cattle from the area farms and those sample results are expected to be available this summer. Additionally, the FDA anticipates that sample results from milk from a dairy cow at the only dairy farm in the area will be available this summer.
In response to the contamination findings in Decatur, the EPA issued a health advisory in January 2009 that limits the amount of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. The EPA advises people who are concerned that their wells are contaminated to use bottled water or point-of-use filters, installed at the faucet, with granulated, activated carbon. PFOA’s are considered toxicants, likely human carcinogens and are linked to birth defects, increased cancer rates, and changes to lipid levels and the immune system in high exposure cases. These chemicals are used as firefighting foams, grease and water repellants, and precursors to Teflon, Scotchguard, and other non-stick consumer goods.
The 3M company recently halted its production of PFOS due to concerns of the chemical’s persistence in the environment and long-term health and environmental effects. The EPA has requested information from numerous Decatur-area industries that use PFC chemicals in their operations, including 3M, Dyneon, Daiken and Toray Flurofibers. Each of these companies reportedly discharges waste and water into the Decatur Utilities wastewater treatment plant. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of the manufacturers notified the EPA in 2007 that it had unknowingly discharged PFCs into the DU wastewater treatment plant. This action prompted the EPA investigation.
Lawyers in our firm have successfully represented clients in PFC cases nationwide. We will continue to monitor the situation in Decatur on behalf of those affected by the contamination. If you need additional information on this subject, contact Rhon Jones or David Byrne in our firm at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com or David.Byrne@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: Associated Press and Decatur Daily
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